Getting USB Browser Mice to work in Vista

I have had this issue with a number of mice and a number of different computers now. Some older USB mice will not work when you plug them into Windows Vista. What happens is a dialog appears saying installing software and then fails saying unknown device.

The fix for this as I just found out this morning is quite simple:

  • Click on start
  • Right click on computer
  • Select properties
  • On the left side of the dialog that comes up select device manager
  • Scroll down the list of devices to the known device
  • Right click and select Update Driver Software
  • Select chose from a list of drivers
  • Select Human Interface Device
  • Select HID compliant mouse
  • Click okay and the mouse should now work

Simple. And Windows had the drivers to make it work all along! Sometimes Windows does some really simple things wrong and as a result is just so frustrating. It is a mouse it should just work!

Word 2007 crashing on Windows 7 or won’t open documents

For the last few days my Word 2007 installation on my Windows 7 box has been playing up.

In particular it will not let me use the mouse to edit documents, as in clicking within the Word application does nothing.

If I open a document through Windows explorer or any means other than from the open dialog within the program they will not open.

And when I close Word is crashes and restarts.

The good news is out of frustration this morning I found the solution to the problem.

And it is all the fault of Microsoft and Automatic Updates.

This Microsoft KB article will explain how to fix the problem.

This is the outline of the problem as given by Microsoft

You install an automatic update for Microsoft Office Word 2007 on a Windows Vista-based computer and then restart the computer. If Word 2007 was running when the computer was restarted, you experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • The mouse does not work when you use Word.
  • You cannot open a Word document from the Search window in Windows Vista.
  • You cannot open a Word document from Windows Desktop Search.
  • Word crashes when you try to start or exit Word.
  • Word crashes when you open the Open dialog box.
  • Word crashes when you save a document.
  • Word crashes when you close a document.

The first thing to note is that this problem applies to Windows 7 now as well as Vista. However, the automatic fix it script that you can download to fix the problem will not work on Windows 7 so you have to fix the problem manually (I will get to this soon).

The second thing to note is that the problem was caused by restarting Windows to install updates while Word was still running. There are only two ways this could happen. a) you didn’t close all the programs running on the system before you restarted. or b) Windows Update automatically restarted the system while these applications were running. What happened to me is b) and that is what really annoys me. Sure you can disable automatic installation of Windows Update files. However, I have the feature turned on for the sake of simplicity. If there are critical updates I want them installed. What I do not apprieciate is Windows corrupting itself in the process of installing updates. Furthermore I do not expect a problem with an Automatic Update to still be a problem more than two years after the problem was discovered (this blog on this exact problem is posted September 2007: http://www.edbott.com/weblog/?p=1771)

The fix is simple, but it does involve editing the registery. Something that you are never advised to do unless you have a serious problem with your computer. Hence my anger at Microsoft for stuffing up their own program through an update.

To resolve this problem, delete the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Data registry subkey. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Exit all Office programs.
  2. Click Start type regedit in the Start Search box, and then press ENTER. If you are prompted for an administrator password or for a confirmation, type the password, or click Continue.
  3. Locate and then click the following registry subkey:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Data
  4. On the Edit menu, click Delete, and then click Yes.
  5. Exit Registry Editor.
  6. Restart Word.

Welcome to the Future – Windows 7 Professional x64 RTM

Yesterday I managed to get my hands on a copy of Windows 7 Professional through the MSDN Academic Alliance Progamme at Uni.

To avoid messing around with my current Vista install I decided to remove my old 160GB IDE Hard Disk from my old computer and install it into my new system (which isn’t that new anymore), being just out of warrenty I was safe to open the box and put in the hard disk.

First problem, whoever designed the motherboard and case layout in my new system never designed it for people to add stuff into. The IDE socket on the motherboard was located directly below the hard disk install location in the case, so the cable had to twist super tightly to get out from under the hard disk and then plug on a 90 degree angle into it. The second problem was the heat sync on my processor is so large I couldn’t get the drive into the drive bay without having to losen it a little and then reset it. The third problem was cables, the system had all the cables nicely cable tied down, however they had been placed into position so well that you couldn’t get to the spare power cables, once I had cut away some of the cable ties the mess of cables the required a number of unpluggings and rewirings so I could get enough slack on all the cables to get everything plugged in. Because of all this a ten minute job turned into a hour and a half of frustration.

Once this was completed I booted back into Vista and partitioned the newly installed 160GB drive into a 120GB partition for Windows 7 and a 40GB partition for installing Ubuntu 9.10 later this month. Once this was set in went the Windows 7 DVD. The installation of Windows 7 took less than 30 minutes and was incredabily straight forward. Easily the simplest installation of Windows I have ever done.

On a whole Windows 7 can be summed up in one word. Smooth. It is what Vista should have been. There are only minor differences in UI between the two operating systems, but those differents make a big difference in user experience. Gone is the quick launch bar, instead you can have programs always in the task bar, even if they are not running. The names of programs have vanished replaced with large icons. The sidebar is gone, you can now put gadgets anywhere on your screen. Windows Media Centre also has support for Freeview, which is great, no messing about with codecs and Media Portal. Windows Aero and animations are incredabily fast and crisp. So far I am very impressed.

The chart below shows my system rating on Windows 7. The values have increased slighty from Vista. (Vista scores in brackets).

Component Details Subscore Base score
Processor AMD Phenom(tm) 9600 Quad-Core Processor 6.9 (5.9)
3.5
Determined by lowest subscore
Memory (RAM) 4.00 GB 5.9 (5.9)
Graphics ATI Radeon HD 3400 Series 3.5 (3.5)
Gaming graphics 1919 MB Total available graphics memory 5.1 (3.9)
Primary hard disk 87GB Free (112GB Total) 5.3 (5.9)
Windows 7 Professional

The key things to note regarding the different scores are:

Processor – Vista is only 32 bit, Windows 7 is 64

Memory – Vista is only 32 bit therefore only has access to 3GB of RAM, Windows 7 has access to the full 4GB

Graphics – Aero doesn’t seem to take advantage of crossfire, so my system is always limited here. It is not a big feature anyway so I typically ignore this.

Gaming Graphics – This is the score that matters much more. For some reason on Windows 7 the score is a lot higher than Vista. The first reason for this is Windows 7 is giving crossfire 512mb more memory than Vista. I can only guess the second reason is newer graphic card drivers in Windows 7.

Primary hard disk – The decrease in score here is caused by using a older IDE drive compared to my primary Vista hard disk being SATA.

Windows vs Linux Installation

Okay in the last week I have had to do a windows installation and a linux installation onto a laptop.

In the past the windows install would have won hands down in terms of getting everything running out of the box. But not any longer, I now think that over the last two years linux has really come of age and is just simple to use and for the most part just works.

Firstly my experiences in windows installing.

  • Insert CD rom and install OS – about 30 minutes.
  • Remove cd rom restart do end user install, about another 30 minutes.
  • Boot into windows remove norton anti virus, install avast and do a boot time scan to ensure that in the few seconds between norton and avast nothing snuck onto the system – 1 hour.
  • Download and install windows updates 10 minutes to download 1 hour to install.
  • Reboot and install firefox and thunderbird 30 minutes.

All up for a basic working machine: 3.5 hours.

Linux installation.

  • Install OS from cd rom… 20 minutes
  • Reboot do end user install 10 minutes.
  • Get wireless networking drivers working – 1 hour.
  • Download and install updates less than 30 minutes.
  • Install anti-virus… not needed it is linux.
  • Install other software… apt-get install software name… under 5 minutes per piece of software.

All up… 2 hours… an hour of which was getting drivers for a wifi card to work, and if hardware vendors properly supported linux you could have a fully functioning up to date OS in under 1 hour.

Two years ago a linux set up would have taken days because of driver problems and even dependancy problems, but now linux has really matured and unless windows can improve its security a lot then in the long run linux will just become more and more popular.

….

Now of course people are going to come back and say that windows has more security holes because more people use it so therefore it is easier to break and if linux increased in popularity more people would write viruses and try to break it too. I do think there is half a point here. However for the most part linux makes you manually do stuff where windows if sometimes just a little to smart for its own good. I placed a flash drive into my computer yesterday that had a virus on it set to autorun, lucky for me my system stopped it. However, why windows insists on letting flash drives autorun is just plain weird… so windows getting lots of viruses is as much microsoft’s slack approach to system security as is it the fault of the virus writers themselves. Then again if there wasn’t security holes in windows norton and mcaffee would be out of work so there is an economics side to viruses as well.